We were rejoining the tour and were off today to Cambodia by boat. It was an early start as we had 2 tour visits to do before we left. So at 7:30, we were looking round a fish farm - certainly a different start to the day. The fish being farmed were cat fish and there were many more farms along the river. The next stop was a Muslim village - there is a sizeable minority of them in this area.We had done a deal to take the fast boat (5 hrs vs. 9 hrs) for an extra $5 and the group was split between the those on fast/slow boats. However when it came to departure time - all those on the slow boat joined the fast boat and were put in the back of the boat where there was limited seating. We then set off for the border. We had a 2 hour wait whilst we got visas and went through passport control. Then it was on to another boat and the slow boat passengers joined us - there was no slow boat - it was a con trick.
The journey down the Mekong was impressive - it is certainly is a big river. There was an immediate contrast between Vietnam and Cambodia - the Viet boat was relatively modern and clean compared to the Cambodia one. Temples were dotted along the banks and these looked like Thai ones to us - definitely in a different country.We had a bus ride into Phnom Penh after we docked and then it was a tuk-tuk (motor bike with trailer for people) ride to the hotel. I had broken my shoe on the boat so we had to find a repairer - Fran said buy some new ones. Needless to say we found a little shop to do it for 30p.
We had to sort out our entry in Thailand as they have changed the visa rules and we needed clarification before next week. So next day, it was off early to find the Thai Embassy. We got there to find chaos with lots of West Africans applying for visas. We found the right person who gave us the clarification we needed - no visa but proof of exit from Thailand.We then walked into town to do a bit of sightseeing. We arrived too late to get into the Royal Palace - closed for lunch between 11:00 & 2:00 - some lunch hour! We had lunch at the Foreign Correspondents club - a famous Phnom Penh spot - nice place but trading on its name. We went on to the Royal Palace only to have problems getting in - Fran had a sleeveless top but covered with a shawl - this we were told is not allowed. We stormed out - Fran wanting a flight out of Cambodia! She calmed down and we went round the National Museum - interesting place that had all the stuff they had taken from temples round Cambodia.We had dinner in a Spanish restaurant with some friends we had met on the Mekong Delta cruise. It seemed strange to be eating Tapas, with people talking away in Spanish in the middle of Phnom Penh.
Next day we didn't get up early enough to do the Royal Palace in the morning, so we had a walk before breakfast and then on to look at Wat Penh - famous in the founding of Cambodia. It was a long walk and the temple at the end of it was OK but not outstanding. We finally managed to get into the Royal Palace after lunch (along with about 200 school children). The inside was impressive - the buildings were Thai style set in beautiful gardens. The throne room was very imposing. The only disappointment was that all the other buildings in the palace complex were off limits apart from a small museum containing various artefacts. Some of these were in gold for ceremonial purposes but they were in an old dresser with no security!We then went into the attached Silver Pagoda. This is a complex of temples and stupas built at the same time as the palace (1890-1913). The highlight in the Pagoda was a temple with an emerald Buddha - complete with solid silver floor tiles. All seemed a bit over the top in the poorest country we have been in.